This article was based on episode 254 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Members of the Modern Manager community get two months of Fast Forward membership for free. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.
After the intensity of the pandemic subsided, managers across America noticed something unusual going on with their teams. So many employees didn’t seem to be as engaged as they once were. They weren’t putting in the same hours or showing up with the same level of intensity. This phenomenon was coined “quiet quitting”, yet I saw something else. I saw that people were rethinking what work-life balance should look like and creating better boundaries. They were choosing to put their extra time into personal wellbeing, family, and passion projects, rather than work. The past expectation of “going above and beyond” to get the job done just didn’t feel right anymore. People in every industry were struggling with burnout, and yet employers were caught off guard with what this means for workplace expectations.
As we shift into this new era of rethinking work-life balance, managers really must understand motivation and burnout. Dr. Mia Baytop Russell brings key insights into ways managers can prevent burnout and create the healthiest conditions for a motivated team. Mia is a lecturer in the Center for Leadership Education at Johns Hopkins University, where she teaches leadership and management courses. Her research focuses on the sustainability of wellbeing, specifically family economic well-being and career/work-related well-being. Mia shares here advice for employees who may be pushing for better boundaries as well as small and big ways managers can create sustainable work habits for their team.
SHIFT FROM “DO WHAT IT TAKES” TO “MEANINGFUL ENGAGEMENT”
Mia feels strongly that it’s the employer’s responsibility to create a healthy work environment. This means fostering a work culture of sustainability, not burnout. While working 80-hour weeks was a sign of dedication in the past, managers can no longer view hours worked as a sign of commitment. Instead, managers must focus on providing meaningful experiences that contribute to business imperatives. This is how we get the best out of people.
Give People a Sense of Agency
Feeling like you’re in control has a huge impact on your motivation. If we only focus on what’s out of our hands, we get frustrated and overwhelmed. Managers can play a key role in helping their employees identify areas where they have agency.
Help Your People Define Their Purpose Do you know what brings each of your team members to life? What about their job feels meaningful and is a source of pride? Open up the discussion in your weekly check-ins or monthly 1-1s to better understand how you can provide opportunities for your colleagues to both define and realize their goals.
Celebrate the Big and Small Wins
Progress inspires motivation. When your teammates complete milestones or reach their goals, make sure to celebrate! Taking the time to acknowledge our successes, however small, can make us feel more satisfied and fulfilled in our day-to-day journey.
Leverage Talents to Meet Business Needs
Give your people the opportunity to use all of their skills, not just the obvious ones. Figure out what each person can bring to the table, and find ways to leverage these abilities to further the team or business goals. As people get to use more of their strengths, they often feel more valued for their unique contributions.
We need to encourage our employees to take time to pause and recover. Consider what the current expectations are for their work hours and vacation time and if those policies need to be adjusted. It’s also critical that managers role model this behavior by taking time off and working reasonable hours.
WHAT EMPLOYEES CAN DO TO MAKE THEIR CONDITIONS BETTER
While Mia emphatically believes that it is the organization’s responsibility to reduce work environments that promote burnout, if an employee finds themselves in an unhealthy situation, there are some ways they can advocate for themselves.
Be Compassionate Towards Yourself
At the top of the list is increasing self-compassion. It’s time to push back on cultural norms that have historically praised folks for being overly busy. We need to learn to talk to ourselves as if we were advising a friend who was on the verge of burnout. We are often so much more compassionate with others than ourselves.
Prioritize Rest Time on Your Calendar
Before scheduling anything on your calendar, start by blocking off vacations or downtime. This ensures you are creating a calendar that supports your full life.
Clarify Your Values
We often intuitively know our values but don’t always articulate them or make decisions in alignment with them. Take time to write down what matters most to you. Then, look at your life according to your organization, job, and personal spheres. In what ways do your values align with each of those? And in what ways are they mis-aligned? This clarity will help identify solutions and make values-based decisions that align with how you want to live your life.
When we see our team members not putting in their usual energy, we can take this opportunity to have a deep conversation with them about their lives and their sense of work-life balance. Rather than shame them for “quiet quitting”, we can honor that they want to live more sustainable, fulfilling lives. Create safety and trust so team members feel comfortable coming to you with their concerns. Have a value-based conversation about what they care about and how they can incorporate their unique gifts and needs into their work, while also negotiating what boundaries they need to recover. It’s a brand new world for manager/team relationships. Managers who open up the conversation with their employees can renegotiate expectations so their teams are happily returning to work, with even more energy than before.
KEEP UP WITH MIA
Get access to a 30-minute coaching call with Mia when you become a member of the Modern Manager community at themodernmanager.com/join.
This article was based on episode 254 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.